Meet the Afro-Cuban Singer We Hope Is Channeled At This Year’s Met Gala

Every year, the Met Gala is themed to the show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. Every year, we see a handful of attendees try and interpret what said theme means to them and the designers that dress them. However, Rihanna always puts them to shame (but we all already knew that). Also, every year diversity within this space is scarce and due to the under-represented legacies and history both in the fashion industry and beyond can be hard to pinpoint.

This year though, there’s a silver lining. The Costume Institute and Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City announced that the theme for this year’s  Met Gala and exhibit was “Camp: Notes on Fashion,” a play on Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay “Notes on ‘Camp.” However, no, the silver lining doesn’t have anything to do with el campo. The silver lining is that the legacy of none-other than the  Queen of Latin Soul herself has the chance to be channelled at this event. We’re talking about the Afro-Latina, Guadalupe Victoria Yoli Raymond,  La Yiyiyi, AKA La Lupe.

But why specifically La Lupe? Why not her peers, like Celia Cruz? In Sontag’s own words, the essayist wrote, “The essence of Camp is its love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration.”  And both La Lupe and Cruz fall under that definition. However, the 4th note in Sontag’s essay states 16 examples ‘of items which are part of the canon of Camp,” and in the mix of names, you find, La Lupe.  And rightfully so, La Lupe was star in her own right, an artist who was ahead of her time.

Born in Cuba in 1936, La Lupe became a legendary icon of the Latin music scene in La Habana around the 1950s, NYC around 1960s and 1970s, and until this day, the whole world. Best known for hypnotizing her viewers with her soulful voice and trance-like dances, improvising songs at the very last minute, showcasing over-the-top costumes, being the first female Latin artist to sell out Carnegie Hall in 1969, recording 18+ albums including 5 with Tito Puente, La Lupe was a force to be reckoned with. Always emperifollá, even when she herself ripped out her eyelash extensions on live TV, La Lupe was a fighter until her last breath. She may have been cast aside due to poor management around the mid 1970s, dealt with mental issues, and homelessness, but she never gave up.

What can be more ‘camp’ than that. At the end of the day, when it comes to categorizing  the music of the iconic, Afro-Cuban singer and performer, it’s like trying to explain what exactly  ‘Camp’ is with clear and concise words. But when it comes to describing a legend you can only try and grasp the rare mixture of  her ethereal presence, her flamboyant personality, and her eccentric soul. This year, we can only hope that her legacy is rightfully remembered and honored in one of the most important events of the fashion industry.

Bianca Nieves

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